Have you ever have one of those days that I had last week? You know, the day where the ground under your mat is really hard? Well that was a stupid question. Everyone has had one of those days. You know what I mean. It’s a time of day that you finally get to prioritize time for yoga. You make you way to the studio, roll out the mat, sit with you legs crossed, close you eyes, and begin following the breath.
But something just keeps interrupting you. You follow your teacher’s advice and concentrate harder on the breath, but it’s no dice. It’s just not working today. What is it that keeps you from finding the breath as it comes in your mouth, travels to your lungs and then fills your abdomen? What is it that then keeps you from feeling the breath as it exits in reverse order? You wonder in stark bewilderment. Then suddenly you get it. The epiphany strikes. There it is: the solution to your quandary. It’s the ground! The ground is harder today than it has been in the past! But wait a minute. That doesn’t make sense. The ground is the ground. It is always hard.
So you concentrate even harder on the breath. You understand that there is no soft ground or hard ground – there is just ground. Sound familiar? You and I have heard it over and over. There is no good or bad position in yoga. We’ve have heard it ad laudanum – “there just is.” Really? You look at your instructor and wonder if they are lying on the same ground that we are. Or are they enlightened enough that they are floating on some unseen cloud that is soft and not hard.
You are still wondering why today’s practice is on such hard ground. Your mind wanders. You ask yourself, if it does not protect you from hard ground, why did you spend the extra money on that “top-of-line” mat. You know, the one that most yogis said you didn’t need but you know that, for the most part, it was the best yoga purchase that you have made. That is, at least until today. Today, that top-of the-line mat is just not doing the trick. For some unknown reason, the ground is harder today. And, at least for this man-yogi, that is not a good thing.
So now comes the next question that keeps you from concentrating on the breath. Why is the ground harder today than any other day? Is it a mean trick of my instructor? Did she adjust some setting on the thermostat that also makes the ground less soft? Did she secretly switch my mat with an identical but thinner version? No… you know yoga teachers are not “that way.” They would not do that to you. It’s against their nature. And besides, life and yoga doesn’t work that way.
So what is it? Why is the ground harder today? In between poses you wonder, “Could it be me? Could something that I am doing? Could it be something that I brought to the studio that is making the ground harder?” It takes no time at all to come up with that answer. Of course it is something you have brought with you. It might be that project that was incomplete at work. Or it could be the college trip you are taking with your soon-to-be high school graduate. It could be the incessant rain of the past four days. Or it could simply be the stress that is hiding somewhere else in your daily life.
Wow, you just figured out why the ground is harder today. So what do you do now? You do the same thing that every yogi on the surrounding mats is trying to do. You concentrate deeper on the breath. You follow it into your lungs. You feel it push your chest out from top ribs to bottom ribs. You sense your abdomen expanding. Then you concentrate harder and you “watch” that breath travel down your arms and legs all the way to your fingers and toes. Once there, you concentrate on the pause. Then you observe that same breath exhale its way up through your body, along the arms and legs, to the abdomen, to the lungs and eventually out of your mouth and nose. Once that experience is over, you repeat the same process. Then you follow your instructor through the rest of the practice and eventually find in Savasana that the ground is not hard at all. “It just is.” As you come out of Savasana you are grateful you came to the studio today. And I am also grateful that you came in. Because this man-yogi’s mat was right next to you and I had the same kind of day. So let’s bow our heads together, chant an “OM” and thank our instructor together. “Namaste.”